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US signs military pact with India

NEW DELHI: The United States and India signed a pact to share sensitive satellite and map data on Tuesday as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the “threat posed by an increasingly assertive China”.

Pompeo, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, said after talks with their Indian counterparts that the two countries had to work together to confront the threat China posed to security and freedom.

The annual U.S.-India strategic dialogue comes at a time of heightened tension in the region.

“Big things are happening as our democracies align to better protect the citizens of our two countries and indeed, of the free world,” Pompeo told reporters after the talks with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

“Our leaders, and our citizens, see with increasing clarity that the Chinese Communist Party is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation, the foundation of a free and open, prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Pompeo said.

The new defence pact – the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation – was a “significant milestone” that would foster cooperation between the militaries of both countries, Esper told the news conference.

The United States planned to sell more fighter planes and drones to India, Esper added. The pact will give India access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data that is considered vital for targeting of missiles and armed drones.

It would also allow the United States to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on U.S.-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian defence source said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

China dismissed Pompeo’s accusations.

In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops on their high-altitude border, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

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